Playing Against Loose Aggressive Poker Players
How to Tackle Them?
The loose aggressive poker player, or the 'LAG', is one of the most feared – and potentially successful – types of poker player. There are different types of LAG, both good and bad, but what are the characteristics typical of a LAG? What are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, and how can knowing the answers to these questions help you profit from them?
A well-played loose aggressive style can be a dominating one at the tables, so be aware that the majority of your poker profits will not come from LAG players. It’s therefore important to understand how to minimize their edge against you, as well as how you can exploit some of the weaknesses in their game.
Characteristics Of A Loose Aggressive Poker Player
Identifying a LAG in the short-term can be difficult, as they often win or lose the hands they play without going to showdown. How can you tell if a player is a skilled LAG, a maniac, or simply seeing a hot run of cards?
If you use a HUD (heads-up display) when playing online poker, these metrics – based on typical 6-max LAG player – can help you identify a LAG:
VPIP (Voluntarily Put in Pot): Above 25%
PFR (Preflop Raise): Above 25%
3-bet percentage: Typically above 7%
Aggression frequency: Typically above 60%
Aggression factor: Typically 3 or above
Continuation bet: Typically high (although better LAGs seem to c-bet less)
Hand reading ability: Typically good but not always
Raise/check raise flop: Typically high
Overall style: Plays lots of hands, understands equity, bets aggressively
Strengths Of The Loose Aggressive Player
One of the biggest strengths loose aggressive players have is an understanding of the importance of taking the initiative. They typically find lots of spots to bet and take down the pot with a weak holding.
LAGs are typically aware of their image and will get a lot more action than tight players or nits. The rationale for this is simple: the more hands they play, the more weak hands they will play, and so it’s less likely they will have a strong hand. LAGs therefore will get paid off frequently when they do have a strong hand, while theirbluffs will get called more often too.
Good LAGs will typically have balanced ranges and will make sure that when they barrel off in certain spots, your call will not be hugely profitable.
How to Beat LAG's
The biggest weakness of the LAG is that they play too many hands, and too aggressively. So what can you do to counter their strategy and beat them?
Bluff-Raise Them More Often
In order to combat the LAG, its best to play a tight aggressive (TAG) style, with a correspondingly tight image. Look for spots where your range can be perceived to be strong, while their range is likely to be weak, then add some bluffs into your range.
So for example, in spots where you will frequently only have strong made hands or draws, you can introduce raises with much weaker hands as a bluff. These hands could be hands like bare overcards, overcards with backdoor draws, or overcards with gutshot draws.
What this does is allow you to capitalize on your opponents’ excessive aggression in spots where your range is still fairly strong overall. Your opponent may suspect you’re bluffing, but is unlikely to do much about it due to the strength of your overall range. It’s also worth noting that when you bluff-raise you will still likely have some equity, so with two overcards you could still have six outs to the best hand if called. This is more than enough to make your play profitable against their wide betting range.
Typically when your raise is called on the flop, you may want to follow up with multiple barrels. Sometimes you won’t want to; it depends on your assumption of how light they will call your raise, as well as the turn card. Only you can make these assumptions, informed by any of their tendencies you have noticed and what you know of their opinion of you.
Slowplay Strong Hands Against Them
For the most part, slowplaying good hands is not as profitable as playing them for value and capitalizing on your opponents’ mistakes. However, it’s pretty much the opposite story against loose and aggressive players: LAGs will frequently bet every street, so you want to let them make this mistake against you when you hold a strong hand.
Usually I would never recommend slowplaying a set on a draw-heavy board, but against a LAG this might even be the best line (depending on how aggressive they are). LAGs are often good hand-readers and will assume that if you call twice on a board showing an obvious draw, you couldn’t have a strong hand like two pair or a set because you would have raised earlier to protect your hand. This may give them an excuse to either value bet thin or go for the three-barrel bluff, so keep your strong made hands in your calling range so they can make this error against you.
Another benefit of doing this is it protects your medium-strength calling range. Once your opponent sees you call down three streets with a set, when they would assume you’d raise the flop, they will know that's in your range so can expect them not to three-barrel bluff you as much, and will likely play much more transparently against you in future.
Preflop Slowplay And 4-Bet Bluff
Typically, LAGs will 3-bet preflop with a very wide range, so in order to combat this you can introduce preflop slowplaying with monster hands, as well as preflop 4-bet bluffing.
Whenever my opponent’s 3-bet range is closer to 10% than 5% I’m often inclined to slowplay a hand like AA or KK preflop. Because their range is so wide, they are less likely to have a strong hand so will often fold to a 4-bet. Therefore slowplaying your strong hands against these players becomes profitable, as does 4-betting as a bluff to get them to fold the weaker hands in their 3-bet range.
Understand that good LAGs are generally winning players and you won’t make much money from them in the long run. Their understanding of ranges and equity is precisely what makes them winning players, but their biggest weakness is that they frequently bet without a strong hand.
Counter this by letting them bluff when you have a strong hand, or pushing them off their hand by raising with a bluff or semi-bluff.
Remember, having a tight table image is crucial to successfully employing some of these strategies, so try to always be aware of how your opponents see you.
Return to the Strategy Section for more articles like this!